In a bold move to resume cruise operations from U.S. ports, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. sent a direct letter to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting approval to restart sailing in July.
“With vaccine mandates and strict health and safety protocols in place, we believe we can provide a uniquely safe and healthy vacation experience,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of NCLH. “With our vessels back in operation, we will not only reinstate thousands of American jobs and meet the significant consumer demand for cruising, but also re-contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy as the industry resumes cruise operations.”
The company said its plan is consistent with the CDC’s updated guidance that international travel is safe for fully vaccinated individuals and that COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of cruise ship travel. Since vaccines are not yet available for children, it appears the initial cruises will be for adults only.
The company said it believes its plan “shares in the spirit and exceeds the intent of the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) to advance mutual public health goals and protect guests, crew and the communities it visits. Norwegian trusts and is optimistic the CDC will agree that mandatory vaccination requirements eliminate the need for the CSO and therefore requests for the lifting of the order for Norwegian’s vessels, allowing them to cruise from U.S. ports starting July 4.”
“We believe that through a combination of 100 percent mandatory vaccinations for guests and crew and science-backed public health measures as developed by the Healthy Sail Panel, led by former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb, we can create a safe, ‘bubble-like’ environment for guests and crew,” Del Rio said. “We look forward to joining the rest of the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors in participating in this next phase of our recovery.”
Over the past eight months, the cruise industry has successfully carried nearly 400,000 passengers in more than 10 major cruise markets outside the U.S. with “only a few” isolated COVID-19 cases – that were identified, contained and mitigated without impacting the health or interrupting the vacations of others, NCLH said. This was done before the availability of vaccinations.
“Our robust and comprehensive SailSAFE health and safety program extends well beyond the protocols of the travel, leisure and hospitality sectors, all of which have already reopened including hotels and resorts, casinos, restaurants, sporting venues, theme parks and airlines,” Del Rio said. To view the company’s SailSAFE protocols, click here.
In a letter to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, NCLH said it plans to begin operating on or about July 4, 2021, with an initial reduced capacity of 60 percent, gradually ramping up the fleet departing from U.S. ports and increasing capacity by 20 percent every 30 days.
“These stringent requirements will remain in place until public health conditions allow for the implementation of more lenient protocols,” Del Rio’s letter said. “We have published the complete SailSAFE health and safety program on our website and attach a copy to this letter.”